Skip to comments.Why Isn't Socialism Dead
Posted on 05/05/2006 5:59:43 AM PDT by RKV
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Exactly, Socialism is about social and economic engineering. It takes government power to centralize government power, confiscate property, redistribute wealth and destroy free enterprise.
The way congress continues to spend is a good example. Even GOP leaders that gain power find out that pork barrel spending and funding programs that gain them votes or campaign contribution helps them maintain power.
SS Benefits will have to be cut by reducing the percentage of annual increases and raising the retirement age. Medicare will have to change to some kind of catastrophic coverage with rationing. Get ready to pay for much of your health care in old age.
Are you saying the rich are all socialists? Seems counter-intuitive.
From the Epilogue
France was the capital of the Enlightenment, an eighteenth-century intellectual movement spearheaded by writers who called themselves philosphes. They had waged a campaign of relentless criticism of the church and revealed religion, which their leader Voltaire called "The infamous thing." The crusade was so effective that by 1778, when an eighty-three year old Voltaire returned to Paris after decades away, he was received like a "victorious general," as Peter Gray describes it. The Jesuit order had been suppressed, and various indicators showed a decline in devotion among the public. The effects were most profound in the ranks of the articulate and the highborn. "Frank atheism was still comparatively rare, but among the enlightened scholars, writers, and gentlemen who set the intellectual fashions of the later eighteenth century, frank Christianity even rarer," writes historian E. J. Hobsbawm.
The decline of faith was fueled by a rise of science, but not all who lost faith became scientific. "Fashionable women kept books on science on their dressing tables, and, like Mme. de Pompadour, had their portraits painted with squares and telescopes at their feet," say the Durants. Nonetheless, "a thousand superstitions survived side by side with the rising Enlightenment." The same Mme. de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress, frequented a fortune-teller who read the future in coffee grounds. Other leading figures of the court did the same.
Like Voltaire, those who were neither Christians nor atheists usually were deists. Deism affirmed the existence of God, or better, of some "supreme being," or "eternal cause," but denied the legitimacy of the church and and the authority of Scripture. What separated deists from atheists was a need to explain creation or a fear of the moral consequences of a godless world.
Deism enjoyed its apotheosis in the French Revolution with the replacement of the Christian calendar with one in which the days, months and seasons were renamed for plants and animals and types of weather. But this transformation like other innovations such as changing the name of the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the Temple of Reason, did not last long; for it served only to illustrate the depth of the human impulse to religion. Diderot, whose Encyclopedie was the flagship of the Enlightenment, confessed that he could not watch religious processions "without tears coming to my eyes."
Most anthropologists agree that religion is a universal; they have yet to discover a civilization of logical positivists. As the eminent scholar Edward O. Wilson said in his acceptance speech upon receiving the 1999 Humanist of he Year award:
There is no doubt that spirituality and religious behavior of some kind are extremely powerful and, it appears, necessary parts of the human condition... the inability of secular humanist thinker s to satisfy this instinct, even when evidence and reason are on their side, is surely part of the reason that there are only 5300 members of the American Humanist Association and sixteen million members of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Accordingly, the Enlightenment's discrediting of Christianity left Europe in the early nineteenth century hungering for a new faith. Robert Owen's movement with its church-like "halls of science" aimed to fill the need, but he was unable to fashion a coherent doctrine. Had socialism remained eh work of such fanciful souls as he, it would have been as marginal as humanism, pacifism, ethical culturalism, vegetarianism and so many other goodhearted but feckless theories.
Engels and Marx, however, succeeded in recasting socialism into a compelling religious faith, and their socialism absorbed or eclipsed all others. Attlee, for example, claimed in The Labour Party in Perspective that his thinking was rooted in Owen and Christianity rather than in Marx, but like Moliere's bourgeois gentilhomme who had been "speaking prose without knowing it," Attlee's idiom reverberated with Marxist concepts. He spoke of class struggle, historical materialism, the supersession of socioeconomic systems in response to technological change and the like. Nothing akin can be found in Owen or the Gospels.
Marxism made socialism a religion by reducing all history and all problems to a single main drama. "Communism is the riddle of history solved," said Marx. Solving the riddle meant not only comprehending the past but foreseeing the future. It "transferred the centre of gravity of the argument for socialism from its rationality or desirability to its historic inevitability," said Hobsbawm, giving it "its most formidable intellectual weapon." In truth, the claim of inevitability was not an intellectual weapon but a religious one. It had no logical weight but great psychological power, paralleling Engels' boyhood faith of Pietism, which embodied a doctrine of predestination.
Nor was this the only way that socialism echoed revelation. It linked mankind's salvation to a downtrodden class, combining the Old Testament's notion of a chosen people with the New Testament's prophecy that the meek shall inherit the earth. Like the Bible, it's historical narrative was a tale of redemption that divided time into three epochs: a distant past of primitive content, a present of suffering and struggle, and a future of harmony and bliss. By investing history with a purpose, socialism evoked passions that other political philosophies could not stir. As the American socialist intellectual Irving Howe put it,
Not many people became socialists because they were persuaded of the correctness of Marxist economics or supposed the movement served their "class interests." They became socialists because they were moved to fervor by the call to brotherhood and sisterhood; because the world seemed aglow with the vision of a time in which humanity might live in justice and peace.
Most socialists would deny that their creed is religious in character. Did not Marx say that religion is an opiate? But many have given evidence of the religious quality of their belief. Michael Harrington, a fallen-away product of Jesuit education who became the preeminent American socialist of his generation, once wrote: "I consider myself to be - in Max Weber's phrase - 'religiously musical' even though I do not believe in God... I am... a 'religious nature without religion.' a pious man of deep faith, but not in the supernatural." A Harrington disciple, sociologist Norman Birnbaum, has been more blunt. "Socialism in all its forms," he writes, "was itself a religion of redemption."
Harrington may not have made as clean a break with the supernatural as he liked to believe. To be sure, Marxism contained no gods or angels, yet it had its own mystical elements. It claimed that human behavior was determined by abstract, exterior forces: people do what they do not for the reasons they think, but because of the mode and the means of production and the class structure. To compound the mystery, Marx and Engels did not believe that the forces they described governed their own actions, but they did not explain why they were exempt.
Nonetheless, Marxism's departure from empiricism was less glaring that that of revealed religions and did not prove fatal to its claim of being scientific. Marx and Engels were pioneers in applying the terminology of science to human behavior. The term "science" had only come fully into vogue in the early nineteenth century, replacing the older "natural philosophy," and it carried a powerful cachet. Every day science was finding explanations for things that had long seemed inexplicable, so Marxism's claim to have broken the code of history did not seem implausible.
Before Marx, Robert Owen always characterized his activities as scientific (as did Saint Simon, Fourier and the other utopian socialists), and the claim was valid. Owen hit upon the idea of socialism and then set about to test it by creating experimental communities. Such experimentation is the very essence of the scientific method. Owen strayed from science only at he point that he chose to ignore his results rather than reconsider his hypothesis. Engels and Marx replaced experimental socialism with prophetic socialism, and claimed thereby to have progressed from utopia to science.
Thus, part of the power of Marxism was its ability to feed religious hunger while flattering the sense of being wiser than those who gave themselves over to unearthly faiths. In addition, the structure of of rewards proffered by socialism was so much more appealing than in the biblical religions. Foe one thing, you did not have to die to enjoy them. Ernest Belford Bax, the most voluble of the founders of British Marxism, wrote a book titled The Religion of Socialism that that reprised the young Hesse:
Socialism... brings back religion from heaven to earth... It looks beyond the present moment... not... to another world, but to another and a higher social life in this world. It is in... this higher social life... whose ultimate possibilities are beyond the power of language to express or thought to conceive, that the socialist finds his ideal, his religion.
The same ecstatic tone reverberated in Trotsky's forecast that under socialism the average person would exhibit the talents of a Beethoven or a Goethe, and in Harrington's vision of "an utterly new society in which some of the most fundamental limitations of human existence have been transcended... [W]ork will no longer be necessary... The sentence decreed in the Garden of Eden will have been served."
The biblical account of Adam and Eve's fall explained the hardships of life. It also portrayed mankind's capacity for evil as well as good, suggesting that we might ameliorate the hardship by cultivating our better natures. As Harrington's bold promise suggests, socialism made things easier. Not only did it vow to deliver the goods in this world rather than the next, but it asked little in return. At the most, you had to support the revolution. At the least, you had to do nothing, since the ineluctable historical forces would bring about socialism anyway. In either case you did not have to worship or obey. You did not have to make sacrifices or give charity. You did not have to confess or repent or encounter that tragic sense of life that is the lot of those who embrace a nonsecular religion. No doubt, many or most of those drawn to socialism felt some sense of humane idealism, but its demands were deflected onto society as a whole.
If this is what made the religion of socialism so attractive, it also explains what made it so destructive .Religion is ubiquitous, reaching far back into the human dawn: prehistoric cave drawings depict what appear to be mythical figures. But early ideas about the cosmos reflected little that we would recognize as moral content, as the bawdy shenanigans of the Greek deities illustrate. The Bible changed this. And the advent of the Bible was only a part of a global transformation that historian Herbert J. Muller places around the sixth century B.C., with the rise of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, as well as the culmination of he prophetic movement in Judaism. These faiths, he says,
...all moved away from the immemorial tribal gods and nature gods, toward more universal, spiritual conceptions of deity or the cosmic order. Their primary concern was no longer the material success of the nation or the assurance of good crops, but he spiritual welfare of man. They offered visions of some Good beyond earthly life, rescuing man from his long obsession with food and phallus. They proposed different ways of treating the powers above, but ways alike more amenable to his ideal purposes. Their service of deity was far from mere servility.
From then on, the world's major faiths connected some theory of the nature of the world with a moral code. Two and a half millennia later, the religion of socialism sundered that connection. What was different about it was not the absence of God, since Buddhism and Confucianism also have no God, but rather the absence of good and evil and right and wrong. This opened the doors to the terrible deeds that were done in the name of socialism.
To be sure, terrible deeds have also been done in the name of the traditional religions. One can cite the Crusades, the Inquisition, the World Trade Center and more. The idea of ultimate salvation - religious or secular - can be used to justify many things. Religious zealots have rationalized their depredations by selective interpretations of holy texts, finding authority for attacks against outsiders or coreligionists whom they deem wayward. But in doing so they also ignore or suppress core elements of their creeds that address moral commands to the believer himself, constraining his actions. Socialism, in contrast, lacks any internal code of conduct to limit what its believers might do. The socialist narrative turned history into a morality play without the morality. No wonder, then, that its balance sheet looks so much worse. In about three centuries the Crusades claimed two million lives; Pol Pot snuffed out roughly the same number in a mere three years. Regimes calling themselves socialist have murdered more than one hundred million people since 1917. The toll of the crimes by observant Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists or Hindus pales in comparison.
By no means all socialists were killers or amoral. Many were sincere humanitarians; mostly these were the adherents of democratic socialism. But democratic socialism turned out to be a contradiction in terms, for where socialists proceeded democratically, the found themselves on a trajectory that took them further and further from socialism. Long before Lenin, socialist thinkers had anticipated the problem. The imaginary utopias of Plato, Moore, Campanella and Edward Bellamy, whose 1887 novel, Looking Backward, was the most popular socialist book in American history, all relied on coercion, as did the plans of The Conspiracy of Equals. Only once did democratic socialists manage to create socialism. That was the kibbutz. And after they had experienced it, they chose democratically to abolish it.
The past 15 year history of Zimbabwe should be a sufficient example of the failure of totalitarianism. So...
our DBM totally ignores any reporting of what has happened there.
Congress will do the same thing they did in 1983. In addition to raising the retirement age and taxing benefits more, they will raise the FICA tax and change the COLA and benefit formulae (making it more means tested.) In sum, they will kick the can down the road rather than solve the problem.
Medicare taxes will be raised and there will be a call for national health insurance, which is portable and not related to employment. We have already nationalized health care for those above 65 and added greatly to those numbers with Medicaid recipents, many of whom are children. The States will be picking up a greater and greater share of the costs. Medicare B and D costs will be raised and Medigap will be asked to cover more of the costs, which will be borne by the recipients.
Socialism is alive and well in America as the people become more dependent upon the government. It is inevitable, especially since about 50% of the people pay little or no income taxes. They have the political power to put the burden on the "rich" to pay for these services.
"The damn rice have everything I tell ya! Especially the white rice!"
Rise up rice of color! Socialism will conquer all!
You are correct, socialism is alive and well. Raising taxes will harm the economy, but socialists think that they know better how to spend our money than we do.
Socialism caters to the "poor". It promises that money and property will be taken from the rich (who got that way thru hard work) and be given to the lazy.
The promise of something for nothing is tempting, and lures a lot of people. The USA is drifting into socialism for the same reason.
Unfortunately for the poor, they will still be poor when socialism gets into full power. The only rich people will be the socialist elite, just like the Soviet Union's Intelligentsia. The rest of the riches will have been wasted and lost, and the hard-working enterpreneurs will be out of the country or working in the black market.
I think the brand of rabid, virulent marxism sweeping latin and south america are possibly the biggest challenge we face. They may very well eclipse the radical islamists. And I think China is behind it.
Because an idiot is born every minute
I think the author of this piece is correct. The thing that drives socialism and makes it impossible to kill is that people are unwilling to believe that life and humans not perfectable, that life has winners and losers, and that actual physical equality is impossible to enforce.
Socialism will never die because there is an endless supply of greedy, would-be dictators that would promise the ignorant, envious masses a heaven on earth, "something for nothing".
Because they haven't plundered every individual that has achieved
anything above mediocrity to within a hair's breath of his life yet.
Socialism thrives on envy. Envy is one of the strongest motivators of human behavior.
I have always found it interesting that the Decalogue has four commandments that govern the relationship between God and man, five commandments that forbid certain behaviors, and a final commandment that forbids envy ("thou shalt not covet"), which is a habit of thought rather than an action.
Envy is the organizing principle of socialism and of most political parties. Envy, I think, is a far more potent force in democratic politics than rational thought. For one thing, it takes effort to exercise rational thought, and it takes effort to suppress the natural impulse of envy. Conversely, it takes no effort to indulge one's natural inclination to envy and rationalize it as an altruistic concern for the welfare of others.
Tagline material, thanks.
Well put. I strongly agree.
Very good article. Reading through people's posts, I see that the majority of them agree: socialism survives precisely because it IS a religion, and that in fact was how it was presented.
As for capitalism, it is not the product of any one person (there's no cult-figure, such as Marx, Lenin or Che Guevara) and is not, in a sense, something that was planned but is more or less the natural order of humanity, based on the right of human beings to own property individually and dispose of it as they wish. Hence it's not dramatic enough and it's a little bit hard to dress it up. No "Capitalist Day" parades, for example! Most of all, it's not a religion, in any way, shape or form, whereas Socialism is.
But a lot of people with inherited wealth, especially, don't know that. You and I do, but Kennedys and Rockefellers seem not to understand it. That's because they have never ahd to earn anything.
That is why we have an income tax, not a wealth tax. (Not that I'm advocating a wealth tax.)
"Men need myths -- and until capitalism can come up with a transformative myth of its own, it may well be that many men will prefer to find their myths in the same place they found them in the first part of the twentieth century -- the myth of revolutionary socialism."
Capitalism HAS a narrative of its own, which is a major reason socialism has been discredited. And that's the narrative of rising standards of living based on a competitive marketplace. Not too complicated.
Why isn't socialism dead? Because there will always be people who will try to leech off the production of others without compensation.
As long as one person has one dollar more than some other people, we'll have socialism. My own belief is that much of socialism is based on nothing more than envy. That is behind much of the shrill denunciations of ceos who haul down hugh settlement bonuses. Even though many of the people denouncing the ceos are doing very well themselves. Socialism is the economic system of losers. Socialists are people who have failed and want others to fail as bad as they have.
And I think China is behind it.
That is my first thought as well. We are witnessing a race to see if Freedom or Chinese communist control spreads faster in the next ten years. The confounding factor is that individual Chinese are joining the middle class at a great rate, which never really happened behind the Iron Curtain, and they may not want to look on the US as a Great Satan.
IOW, capitalism is social in nature - unlike "social"ism, which is a deceptively coined word. All leftists reflexively distort the term, "social;" leftists say "society should" when they mean nothing other than that government "should" do (whatever). IOW, leftists posture as standing for "society" when what they actually advocate is not social-ism but government-ism - tyranny.
Socialism stands for government ownership of the means of production, which means that socialism takes not only the means of production but the particular goods to be produced as a given (After all, different goods require different means of production). If the goods to be produced are taken as a given, the idea of physical progress has been rejected. So much for the leftist's claim to the mantle of "progressive" - leftists are profoundly reactionary.
With capitalism, "the poor" in America have reached the standard of living enjoyed by the middle class only 50 years ago. And considering the advantages in travel, in convenience, and in medical care for self and family, an American secretary today would not care to live in the circumstances of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Socialism would have prevented all, or nearly all, of that progress. Over any appreciable period of time, socialism shares not wealth, but poverty.
||Finally, after eight years in this forum, someone has inadvertently offered me the excuse to post a picture of Giada.|
Very true. Except for the guys in charge, of course. They seem to live off the fat of the land. No barefoot doctors for Fidel - he goes to Europe for his medical care. Secretly, all our leftists think they are going to install socialism - and they're going to be the ones in charge, so life will be gravy for them.
Thats what I believe.. democracy leads always to socialism. I think our battle to stop the spread of socialism in America is worth it, and we will delay things.. allowing for invention and the betterment of lives in the meantime.. But ultimately we will go down to socialism if we stay democratic.
...because lazy people can vote.
Socialism isn't dead because they are called Democrats these days!
Actually, the article is very interesting.
Hey, this thread was tailored for my tag-line!
When you have truth and real morality, myth is mostly superfluous. It might embellish, add a touch of literature, put a lesson or two in plainer terms. But there is nothing of substance in egalitarian ideology's appeal, that isn't borrowed from the real version: the golden rule.
As for why it is promoted, that is even easier and has nothing to do with socialism as an economic system. It is simply the perennial nature of tyranny, as already fully known to the classics or to Machiavelli. "Populism" is a modern fancier word trying to dress it up. Tyranny is its actual, historical name.
Ayn Rand World Tour
Former Tour Dates
Future Tour Dates
USA (if we don't do something soon)
. . . just like they think they are going to win the lottery, I suppose . . . which, as improbable is it is, makes a lot more sense than that they will be made king. But it's certain that leftists identify with tyrants, provided that their king siezed power without inheriting it.
Why Isn't Socialism Dead?
The host(capitalism) is still thriving and hasn't been sucked dry by the parasites. (Yet)
"Everyone -- even many Conservatives -- wants to drag down the people at the top. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Ken Lay, Martha Stewart -- they don't have too many friends. Achieving the dream of success under capitalism really puts a target on your back. Building a glorious myth out of that is hard."
I have to disagree. Ask almost any sentient person anywhere on the planet if he would rather be super rich and successful or a glorious worker for the revolution and the revolution loses every time. The problem with capitalism is that we have encumbered it with many of the trappings of socialsim, regulation, the nanny government, and public scrutiny making it very hard for the average guy to aspire to such success. That was the success of the days of the robber barons. Most people really believed that reaching such success was possible, if not for them then for their children. There was a myth. Modern American and European socialism killed it for most folk.
Or rather, socialism can't be killed because socialism appears to to our baser instincts and capitalism to our higher.
Also, as was pointed out, our tax system is such as the masses of lower income folks pay no taxes so have no hesitation to vote in high tax, socialistic spending programs.
Seems so many super rich folks are Dems or otherwise favor socialism. Why? A study of history shows that, as in the Russian revolution, the wealthy supporters were soon no longer wealthy, or even allowed to live.
Thats why?.. And until America "spits on the ground" everytime they hear the word democracy, it WILL get worse.. You do know Social Security IS socialism don't you.. its not like socialism, it IS socialism.. Socialism has ALWAYS been Slavery by Givernment, and it still IS.. The slaves get used to being slaves.. You know, like in Europe.. Monarchy is also Mob Rule.. you see.. as are Dictatorships.. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat has many names but is the same political system system, MOB RULE..
I eat the rice...
Marxist socialism takes root easiest in subsistence economies. Look at Russia and China, for example.
I agree with your statement: "that people are unwilling to believe that life and humans not perfectable." See my signature.